High Speed Rail: The Dream Scheme Scenario

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Ever since Jay Gould, Leland Stanford, and Cornelius Vanderbilt acquired their first legislatures, railroads have been best understood as political networks, rather than as transportation lines. The Obama administration is hyping high-speed rail (HSR) with a $53 billion proposal not because the president is a trainspotter or because he collects back copies of the Official Guide of the Railways (like I do).  read more »

From the Great Moderation to the Great Stagnation

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For much of the past decade, I was a proponent of the thesis that that the American economy had entered a “great moderation,” where expansions lasted longer and recessions were fewer, shorter and milder. Productivity had seemingly reached a permanently high plateau; inflation seemed tamed. The spreading of financial risk, across institutions and around the world, seemed to have reduced the odds of a crisis.  read more »

Is Nashville the Next Boomtown of the New South?

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I traveled to Nashville for the first time in 2007, spending most of my time in the downtown area. I posted my impressions here, noting the high growth and high ambition level as well as the fantastic freeways, but also the generally unimpressive development and built environment.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: The Valley of Mexico

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The last 60 years of urban growth in the Mexico City area should dispel any belief that suburban dispersion is principally an American phenomenon or even limited to the high income world. Over the last 60 years, all of the population growth in what is now called the Valley of Mexico metropolitan area and urban area has occurred outside the urban core (See Map).  read more »

Can Common Sense, and maybe Mickey, Save Orlando’s Transit Mess?

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The week’s debate about high-speed rail has once again polarized our populace, inflamed irrationality, and sent everyone back to their familiar corners.  Little constructive debate is possible when major newspapers are flailing the governor for rejecting money and the seemingly global revolutionary fervor is gripping local citizens who rallied in protest Wednesday night around downtown Orlando’s Lake Eola.  None of this will do any good for the service workers trying to get to their jobs in the theme parks or for downtown cube dwellers streaming to scattered office parks.  read more »

Sputnik Moments, Spending Cuts, and (Remember These?) Jobs

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The stand-off in Washington over spending reductions has pushed aside serious discussion about a far more pressing issue:  job creation.

Granted, the country is long overdue for action on spending cuts. There is much that our government does that we can live without. Bureaucracies’ programmatic lassitude and congressional appropriators’ adolescent-like lack of discipline have contributed to our nation’s fiscal imbalance.  read more »

The State of Silicon Valley

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Every year, the top officials, policy wonks, and business managers convene at the annual State of the Valley conference to discuss and debate the health of the region. Over a thousand attendees trekked to San Jose, Calif., on Feb. 18 for the release of this year’s report. Published since 1995 by Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network and distributed for free, the new 2011 Index of Silicon Valley reported bleak indicators and a gloomy outlook.  read more »

What The Census Tells Us About America’s Future

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With the release of results for over 20 states, the 2010 Census has provided some strong indicators as to the real evolution of the country’s demography. In short, they reveal that Americans are continuing to disperse, becoming more ethnically diverse and leaning toward to what might be called “opportunity” regions.

Below is a summary of the most significant findings to date, followed by an assessment of what this all might mean for the coming decade.

Point One: America is becoming more suburban.  read more »

Census 2010: A Texas Perspective

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If you want to get a glimpse of the future of the U.S., check out Fort Worth, TX. Never mind the cowboy boots, but you might want to practice your Spanish.

Texas is growing explosively and much of that growth is among Latinos.   The latest Census Bureau figures show the Lone Star State grew by 20%, to over 25 million people, recording about a quarter of the nation’s overall growth.  read more »

The Millennial Mosaic

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Esperanza Spalding, winner of the best new artist award at this year’s Grammys, personifies the ethnic trends reshaping America.  She is a fresh-faced 27-year old jazz bassist whose very name portrays her mixed ethnic and racial heritage as the daughter of an African-American father and a Hispanic, Welsh, Native American mother. Spalding first gained her deep interest in music watching French-born Chinese American classical cellist Yo Yo Ma on “Sesame Street,” a TV program that has perhaps contributed to ethnic acculturation in the U.S. as much as any other institution.  read more »